“Garden State on Your Plate” Program Gets Kids Excited About Local Food

Swiss chard took over Princeton. During the last two weeks of last month, the ruffly green vegetable with a ruby-red spine appeared in storefronts, window displays, planters, and on menus all over town.

Bent Spoon had chard ice cream on its list of flavors. Mediterra, Olsson’s, and the brand-new Jammin’ Crepes were among the eateries including the crinkly vegetable as part of their offerings.

It was all part of Garden State on Your Plate, a program that took place in the Princeton Public Schools that brings children together with chefs and local farmers. The goal is to educate young palates and make kids “food literate” from an early age. Funded by a $12,000 grant from Princeton University this year, the program began its third season with four sessions each at Community Park, Riverside, Johnson Park, and Littlebrook schools.

“We want to expose the entire elementary school population to well-prepared, locally grown produce, and bring the whole community to the table around the idea that we’re really fortunate to live in the Garden State,” said Karla Cook, a founder with Fran McManus, Dorothy Mullen, and Diane Landis of the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative, Inc. in 2006. Garden State on Your Plate grew out of the school gardens initiative, an edible garden started by Ms. Mullen at Riverside Elementary School.

National Restaurant Association Show Jan 2019 728×90

“Elementary school is the perfect time to introduce children to new foods. They’re out of their own homes, they’re open to new things,” said Ms. McManus “We have these wonderful chefs because we want this first experience for the children to be the best — the best of what a beet or chard can taste like.”